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CES: 4K TVs, 4K Blu-rays, and 4K Blunders

Posted by: , 18:04 AEDT, Sat January 12, 2013

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4K is all the rage at this year's CES, with TVs, Blu-rays and even bloopers all feeding into the 4K hype (mathematically 4 times as strong as the HDTV hype)
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You only need one number and one letter to sum up this year's CES: 4K.

While OLED, for the second year running, seems likely to make just a big impact in the near future, all the major TV manufacturers at this year's CES were talking up 4K, or Ultra HD. The holy grail of TV may in fact be a combination of both OLED and 4K technologies.

For the uninitiated, 4K refers to the 4000 lines of resolution that these new TVs will be able to display. Current HDTVs are limited to a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (sometimes referred to as 2K), but the resolution of 4K TVs will go up to as high as 4096 x 2160, essentially quadrupling the number of pixels the TV is able to display.

The lack of native 4K content, or a delivery method to get 4K content into people's homes, isn't an immediate concern as yet - advancements in compression technology could see 4K content delivered using roughly the same bandwidth as current HDTV streams - but critics have already sounded warnings about perceivable improvements in 4K sets. The extra number of pixels will give you more detail, but whether the human visual system is able to perceive the differences, especially if the TV set isn't big enough (there's a reason why manufacturers used 84/85 inch sets to show off their Ultra HDTVs), is up for debate.

Jumping on the 4K bandwagon not just with its range of 4K TVs, Sony also trumpeted what their upcoming range of "Mastered in 4K" Blu-ray. These Blu-ray discs are still being encoded in boring old 1080p, but they come from material that has been mastered from "pristine" 4K transfers. Sony feels this is an immediately solution to the 4K content (or the lack thereof) problem - when these Blu-ray movies are upscaled to be displayed on 4K TVs, Sony says this will give you a "near 4K" picture. Of course, true 4K Blu-rays may simply not be possible without overhauling the entire format (and forcing everyone to buy a new player to play 4K discs), which is probably why Sony also unveiled their online based 4K video distribution service, to be launched later in the year.

With so much focus on 4K by Sony, it seemed appropriate that one of the more funny moments of this year's CES was also related to Sony and 4K. Sony Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai's presentation of Sony's 4K TV range was meant to wow audiences, but it only attracted laughter as a red faced Hirai had to contend with 8 million pixel screen showing a blue screen of death, as the computer used to display the demo 4K material crashed right at the start of the presentation (see video of it here).

Buyers interested will need to start saving up at least $20,000 to grab the cheapest of the priced 4K TVs at this year's CES.


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